The Bronx, art and stereotypes

high waist jeans bronx
I was born and raised in the Bronx, and am very proud of where I come from and all that I learned and experienced. It’s part of who I am.

But so are a lot of things.

I’m often pigeonholed into what people perceive the Bronx to be based on what they’ve seen on TV or by what they experienced living there. This always baffles me. Unless you’ve just stayed in your neighborhood or have never visited, there’s no way to categorize the Bronx as one thing. From someone who lived in a small apartment in the Norwood area to a one family home in Riverdale, I can tell you that the Bronx offers up a lot of different experiences. It all depends on what you want to be exposed to, really.

Yea, sure. I have a bit of an accent. And yea, I’m street savvy. But no, I did not live near Yankee Stadium and, no, I did not know Jlo.

It was Botanical Gardens and Wave Hill one day. House parties in the South Bronx the next. A bit of everything, which is why it was always easy for me to go in and out of different circles.

Related: Born and raised in the Bronx

Another big part of the fabric of who I am is art. If I’m “brooding” and “unamused”, it’s not the Bronx. It’s mostly because I’m an artist with a constant racing mind who sees things in a different way. My first art show was at the age of 6, and it’s been how I expressed myself for many years. Without it, I lose my center. It’s a huge part of who I am. Did the Bronx inspire my artistic endeavors? Sure. I grew up in the age of street art. How could it not? But I also do credit art school in the 90s and the museum field. They helped to really cultivate that passion, eventually turning it into a career for nearly 20 years. My father, aunt and cousin were also very talented artists, and my mother often took me to museums as a child. There’s no denying that art drastically changed the trajectory of my life – and without it – I would have been an entirely different person.

But no matter, “Bronx” ultimately becomes the explanation for all of my feelings.

“Yea, you’re rachet like me because we’re from the Bronx.”
“Well, you don’t talk to everyone because you’re from the Bronx.”
“You have an attitude. That’s because you’re from the Bronx.”
“You’re tough. It’s because of the Bronx.”

I can go on and on. And truth is, it’s not going anywhere. And I don’t know if I can ever just shrug it off, especially when I feel like all my many different life experiences have made me who I am today. The Bronx has such a defined perception that no matter what, I will be reduced to a stereotype. Truth is, maybe I have an attitude and don’t speak to you because, well, you suck. Or maybe I’m just a strong woman who is not afraid to voice an opinion? Maybe I’m not paying attention because I’m looking at the beautiful colors in the sky and wonder what it would look like as a painting. Maybe I’m not smiling ear to ear everywhere I go because I have things on my mind? 

Nope. Must be the Bronx.

Next time you think you know someone because of where they come from, you don’t. Next time someone thinks they can define you based on your birthplace, tune them out. People can only come to you with what they know. We are the sum of entire lives.

Goes for them. Goes for you.

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One Comment

  1. Such a great article, Rachel! I think you’re amazing because I’ve watched you online for years and then had the great honor to meet you in person! ?

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